In theoretical terms, writers have challenged the view that geographical patterns merely reflect society, suggesting instead that space is integral to economic and social processes. The model assumes that jobs were concentrated near the city center, except for a few large factories at the fringe. It supposes that jobs and low wages kept immigrant workers in central cities, sometimes in sectors along radial rail lines. The processes and patterns of urban development in the U.S and Canada were broadly similar. The importance of jobs, especially in manufacturing, patterns of residence as being dependent on job location and transportation but also on variations in how homes were used as sites of unpaid work. Finally, we see the political geography of metropolitan areas as both an expression and a determinant of social patterns. The point of this article was to give a broad scope of their argument. They explore the major themes and discuss their immediate implications. Their argument is meant to apply equally to Canadian and U.S cities and suburbs.
Nothing matters more to a city than jobs. In the first half of the twentieth century, decentralization was the fate reserved for a few, specific industries, while offices and stores defined and were defined by, the CBD. The authors argue that the decentralization of manufacturing employment began very early and that patterns have long been polynuclear. We also suggest that many offices and even retail employment had developed outside the CBD before World War 2, blurring their supposed contrasts with manufacturing. The geography of manufacturing was concentrated in a zone that encircled the CBD. The most flexible and accurate label for the geography of manufacturing is polynuclear, a term that owes much to ideas first advanced by Harris and Ullman a half a century ago. Visual inspection of the maps of manufacturing districts in Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Montreal demonstrates the inadequacy of zone as a label. By 1940, Chicago had as many employing suburbs as did Los Angeles. Manufacturing location has been interrupted within a Weberian framework, which states that a firms location decision is the result of a rational appraisal of transportation costs, land prices, taxes, labor and proximity to other firms.
In the first half of the twentieth century, there was a good deal more office employment outside the CBD than is generally supposed. Most discussions of suburban retailing have focused on planned shopping centers, which are usually interpreted as a postwar phenomenon. Longstretch has noted that the rapid growth of shopping centers in the 1950’s would not have been possible without the groundwork laid by numerous projects undertaken in the preceding decades. Retail business was not planned it was discussed but, there is nothing to say if it really was or not. Stand-alone stores, commercial areas, and strips had developed with little or no coordination in American cities until the early twentieth century. Planned or unplanned, suburban retailing accounted for a significant amount of metropolitan-wide retail sales and employment.
By mid-century, as informed observers recognized, suburbs, like cities, had long contained all classes of people. By 1920, there was a close association between industry and working-class settlement. There was a tendency for immigrants and racialized minorities to concentrate in cities. African Americans were confined to the central city, in part because of discriminatory lending practices. By 1950, immigrants made up almost as high a proportion of the population of suburbs (9 percent) as of cities (11 percent), the respective percentages for black (4.5 and 12.6 percent) were quite different. Central ghettos have attracted a good deal of attention, but they represented only one part of the immigrant experience. The authors believe that the social geography of urban areas did not conform even approximately to the stereotype of urban ghetto slums and affluent suburban enclaves. The location of jobs was of fundamental importance and the improvements in transportation technology.
Unpaid labor varied with residential location. Cooking and cleaning took longer in areas, usually suburban that lacked piped water. Owner building was easier and sometimes only possible in areas where building regulations were permissive, again typically suburban. This unserviced and unregulated suburb offered households the best opportunity to supplement monetary income with unpaid labor. This appealed to the families of immigrant workers, who were willing to make exceptional sacrifices to acquire a home.
The industrial capital guaranteed that its need for factory sites toward the urban fringe would be accommodated by suburban and city governments. One result was the organized factory district. Usually located in the suburbs, these were planned privately by railway and real estate companies and supported by local government. Varied patterns of house building and land development, as well as the emergence of social diversity at the urban fringe, depended on the fragmentation of government within the metropolitan area. Political fragmentation enabled rich suburbs to exclude the poor, along with racial and ethnic minorities, thereby confining them to the city.